public health insurance-seniors

SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- Medical expenses for senior citizens represented more than 30 percent of all medical spending covered by South Korea's national health insurance program last year, data showed Sunday.

According to the data by the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), the country's state-run health insurance firm, medical expenses for people aged 65 or older accounted for 34.4 percent of all medical spending by the firm in 2012.

The ratio has been increasing since 2005 when it registered 24.4 percent.

A total of 47.84 trillion won (US$43 billion) was paid in 2012 by the public health insurance firm in medical spending, up 3.5 percent, or 1.6 trillion won, from the previous year.

A monthly average of medical expenses per capita reached 80,545 won in 2012, up 2.7 percent from 2011.

During the same period, medical expenses for the elderly totaled 16.45 trillion won, up 6.9 percent, with a monthly average of hospital expenses per senior citizen rising 3.6 percent to 256,321 won.

Despite the rise in medical expenses for the elderly, the growth of overall medical expenses paid by the NHIS slowed between 2011 and 2012.

The medical spending growth rate was above the 10-percent range from late-2006 to 2010, but it fell to 6 percent in 2011 and 3.5 percent last year thanks to an economic downturn and medication price cuts.

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